Why Knowing When Airlines Release Award Availability Matters

United 767

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Planning ahead for an award ticket is by far the most important factor when trying to secure a booking.

Outside of unpredictable award releases there are really only two strategies you can count on – airlines releasing award availability at an exact time in advance and last minute availability opening up in the final few weeks.

If you are looking to fly in business or first class booking when it releases of course gives you the best chance of getting the dates you want.

We spend a lot of time acquiring points and there is nothing worse than not being able to find availability for a trip.

We will tell you how to navigate an award availability date and when is the best time to book.

Airline award release days

Here are the object releases of every airlines award availability as well as an additional releases.

AirlineDays PriorAdditional ReleaseBest Time To Book
AA33142 Days PriorAt Release or Last Minute
Aer Lingus330
Aerolineas Argentinas330
Air Calin330
Air Canada/Aeroplan355
Air China355
Air France331
Air New Zealand350
Air Tahiti Nui331
ANA356At Release or 14 Days Prior
Austrian35530 Days PriorAt Release or Last Minute
Cathay Pacific36014 Days PriorAt Release or Last Minute
China Airlines355
China Eastern365
China Southern365
EVA35514 Days PriorAt Release or Last Minute
Flying Blue331
Garuda Indonesia365
JAL36014 Days PriorAt Release or Last Minute
Lufthansa36014 Days PriorAt Release or 14 Days Prior
Qantas – Partner Bookings353+
Qantas – Elites353
Qantas – Everyone297
Royal Air Maroc360
Royal Jordanian361
South African335
Southwestschedule open
SWISS339 X, 300 J
Turkish355At Release or 30 Days Prior
United335At Release
Virgin Atlantic331
Virgin Australia330

As you notice most airlines release about 330 days in advance with a few having official additional releases. Now there are many different factors that go into the best way to book a flight on an airline and when partner awards are released but the above dates are assuming you are booking with the airline directly.

Best time to book an award ticket

So knowing when airlines release awards, is that always the best time to book?

Sort of.

If you know the dates you are planning to travel and have the points saved up your best bet is to book as far in advance as possible. This is especially true for trips to Japan on ANA or a first class ticket on Lufthansa to Frankfurt.

However, it’s not always realistic to plan that far in advance and many times you will be between a window of 3 – 6 months in advance for a booking.

One strategy that can be used is to wait on a last minute seat to open up in the final week before a flight is set to depart. You can sometimes count on this to open very desirable bookings like the trip on ANA or a First class flight but it’s hard to have peace of mind waiting for a last minute ticket.

Our strategy for booking award flights

The strategy we undertake when we don’t book at release and we don’t find availability is to find the next best option and place it on hold. Award tickets are often refundable so we want to make sure we have a booking while we wait for a availability to open up.

Then we place an alert on Seats.Aero, one of our most recommended travel tools, that will tell us when a better flight is open by SMS or Email.

This way we can count on having a backup flight and if a better one opens we can easily switch.

We’ve done this countless times and scored some great direct flights last minute like our trip from Newark to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines for only 45,000 points.

Summary & Takeaways

Having a strategy and planning around award release dates will give you the best chance of booking the flights you want.

Don’t think that just because you don’t see award availability that all is lost as seats can change often by the hour.

We recommend monitoring well in advance and constantly checking if a seat may open up. While you do though try to book an alternative and make sure the program you are using has the ability to cancel.

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